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Civil servants want high altitude allowance

Civil servants of Sephu, Gangtey and Phobji gewogs under Wangduephodrang dzongkhag wants high altitude allowance.

But though the civil servants have raised the issue to the authorities, so far they have not received any positive response.

The Gewog Administrative Officer (GAO) of Sephu Gewog intends to propose for discussion in light of all the difficulties faced by the civil servants in these three gewogs during the next session of the Dzongkhag Tshogdu.

According to the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2018, a high altitude allowance based on rates approved by the government will be paid to a civil servant posted to a place which is 3,000m and above.

As per the notification issued by Ministry of Finance on the revision of high altitude allowance, civil servants serving in places between 10,000ft (3,000m) to 12,000ft (3,600m) are entitled for Nu 2,000 per month as high altitude allowance. And civil servants serving in places above 12,000ft are entitled for Nu 3,000 per month as Albion altitude allowance.

GAO of Sephu Gewog Kezang Lhuendup said that  Sephu gewog is located at an elevation of 2,600 to 3,500m above sea level and one must get an altitude allowance.

“Civil servants are unhappy and despite working under harsh weather conditions, civil servants working under these three gewogs are being deprived of altitude allowance. I was here for five years and so far I have not received any high altitude allowance,” said Kezang Lhuendup.

According to the Principal of Rukubji Community Primary School, Aitaraj Hingmang, Pele La pass is located at an elevation of 3,351m above sea level and Sephu Gewog is located in almost the same range therefore civil servants working at Sephu Gewog should get altitude allowance.

“This is not a new issue, I raised this issue many times at the dzongkhag-level education conference too.  However somehow we didn’t get concrete results from the meeting,” said Aitaraj Hingmang.

Phobji gewog is above 3,800m to 4,000m. According to the GAO of Phobji  gewog  Ngawag Choda, as per civil service rules, civil servants are supposed to get high altitude allowance but till date they never got the allowance.

“Because of the weather conditions, the rough highway due to the East-West high way widening and lack of basic facilities, often civil servants are reluctant to work here and we do hear lots of complaints from them,” said Phobji’s GAO.

Due to extreme weather conditions, civil servants are compelled to depend on bukhari or kerosene heaters, which also costs them a lot.

A teacher of Rukubji Community Primary School, Jigme Sherub said all three gewogs have short summer.  Winter starts from August and lasts till May.

“We have no option but to buy firewood and each truck load of firewood cost us Nu 12,000 to Nu15,000. One truck load of firewood last for only two months. During winters we need more than two,” said Jigme Sherub.

“I feel it is right for us to claim altitude allowance since we are working under extreme weather conditions,” he added.

Gangtey Gewog Officer also pointed out the issue considering all the difficulties civil servants serving in the gewog to Tshogdu face, however he was told that civil service rule doesn’t apply to Gangtey gewog since the gewog is situated above 2,900m to 3,500m sea level.

“If civil servants working in Laya and Lunana can receive an altitude allowance, in Gasa, which is 2,900m above sea level, then why not we? It’s not fair,” said Gangtey’s GAO.

Meanwhile, the civil servants are hopeful that the government will look into the matter seriously.

Pema Seldon from Thimphu

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